New problem for elderly care patients

November 18, 2008 8:04:37 AM PST
Rushed out of harm's way, a group of patients from a Houston area retirement community are back home after Hurricane Ike, but are now dealing with a new problem. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Their wheelchairs and walkers are gone, missing since Ike and no one seems to know what happened to the expensive items.

Each of the wheelchairs is worth upwards of several hundred dollars. The elderly folks who used them are in their 80s and 90s. They have health issues and they're on fixed incomes. That's why their caretakers are speaking up.

As Hurricane Ike approached, the sixty some elderly residents of the Goose Creek Rehab and Healthcare Facility in Baytown were evacuated.

"I know. I was there. I know for sure that they had wheelchairs," said nurse Arthene Jackson.

Jackson says they were bused to San Antonio where over the next two weeks they'd stay at several locations. Jackson says it was during a move from a shelter to one of three nursing homes owned by Trisun Healthcare that the equipment vanished.

"Where the wheelchairs went to, I don't know," said Jackson.

Goose Creek activity director Beverly Anderson says a dozen chairs and three walkers never made it onto the buses.

"To them, it's devastating because that would be like someone taking your car," she said. "That's how you get around."

When the residents returned to Baytown, caregivers had to scramble to find spare wheelchairs, even piecing some together for them.

The residents involved are not well enough to discuss this ordeal. We're told they each in some stage of dementia.

Anderson says she's repeatedly called Trisun, trying without luck to locate the equipment. A spokesperson for Trisun denies keeping the chairs and walkers, saying they've looked but cannot find them.

"It's unfortunate that at the end, they look to the folks that ended up being there to take care of the residents to place some blame on an issue," said Greg Moore with Trisun Healthcare.

This is so upsetting for so many, Anderson says because some of the wheelchairs gone missing were just recently bought by Medicare.

"A lot of them, that was their one wheelchair," said Anderson.

To be clear, the folks at Goose Creek are not accusing anyone of stealing the equipment. They just want to get back what belonged to the residents to ensure as much comfort and mobility as possible for them in the remainder of their days.

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